Updated: Sunday, Jan. 24, 1999 at 01:49 CST

Hall of Fame tries to capture `real' rodeo for exhibit

By Art Chapman
Star-Telegram Staff Writer

For those who miss the sights and sound of this year's Stock Show rodeo, there is a place where those images can be recaptured.

The National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City is sending an engineer to Fort Worth during the 103rd Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show and Rodeo to record the sight of the serpentine grand entry and the sounds of the massive wooden chutes in the Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum creaking against the strain of bucking stock.

For those of us in Fort Worth, those seem rather ordinary events, but as Judy Dearing of the Cowboy Hall of Fame discovered, they are not.

"We thought we could go out to the Oklahoma State Fair Rodeo and shoot film of the grand entry," she said. "But we found out they don't do it any more."

Dearing called on several rodeos in Texas and Oklahoma only to find that most have abandoned the snake-like grand entry. It has become a thing of the past, part of rodeo history.

"They still do it in some of the larger rodeos, like Houston, but we wanted to find something closer," she said.

The Cowboy Hall of Fame is filming the Stock Show grand entry to use in its new, expanded facilities. The Oklahoma City center has added 140,000 square feet to the Hall of Fame and about 6,000 of that is dedicated to a new rodeo exhibit.

"The rodeo gallery is going to be quite unique," Dearing said. "There will be a rodeo arena -- on a small scale -- and it will be lowered about 18 inches from the entry, so people will get the feeling of walking down a ramp into the arena."

There will be a dirt-colored carpet covering the arena floor and six kiosks with monitors in the middle. Each monitor will feature a separate rodeo event.

Those monitors will also highlight the Stock Show grand entry. Some of the historical footage will be supplied by KXAS-TVhannel 5.

Also, in the rodeo gallery, there will be two chutes -- one loaded with a bronc, the other with a bull. The livestock mannequins will be designed to show visitors the kind of rigging that riders use in each event.

Above the chutes will sit an announcer's booth where the voice of longtime rodeo announcer Clem McSpadden will call out rodeo action. In the background, visitors will hear the sounds of the crowd, the rumble of the livestock and the opening and closing of the wooden Stock Show chutes.

"This exhibit traces the history of rodeo from early pasture rodeos to about the 1960s and '70s," Dearing said. "Back then everyone had wooden chutes, but now you can't find them. Fort Worth is one of the few places that still uses them."

While other rodeos have gone to stronger, easier to maintain metal gates, the Will Rogers Coliseum still has the old paint-caked gates that hang heavy on rusted hardware.

Generations of white paint brighten them, but up close, they sag with age. The bolts have worn wide paths over the years and the graffiti carved deep into the grain offer the names of former competitors and the scores they collected.

"We had the hardest time finding wooden gates," Dearing said. "One or two little country rodeos still have them, but in most cases they only have the wooden alleyways. The gates are steel."

The new Hall of Fame facilities will open in October.